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POPACS

POPACS (with spacers) [Drexel University]

POPACS (Polar Orbiting Passive Atmospheric Calibration Sphere) is a mission by a collaboration between Utah State University, Gil Moore, Planetary Systems Corporation, Drexel University, American Aerospace Advisors, Inc., SpaceX, Analytical Graphics, Inc, et al. to assess changes in the density of the upper atmosphere in response to heightened solar activity.

In partnership with Planetary Systems Corporation and project director, Gil Moore, the DSSL students designed a delivery system for POPACS that will protect it during it launch and deployment in to orbit.

The spacecraft in this case are three 10-centimeter spheres filled with sand to masses of 1, 1.5, and 2 kilograms. The spheres, separated by spacers, will fly within CubeSat (3U) form factor as secondary payloads on the first Falcon-9 v1.1 launch from Vandenberg in 2013, and released once in polar orbit. Air Force radars as well as ground observers, including college students, will track the orbits of these objects as they decay over 10 to 15 years to measure atmospheric density.

The lightweight, high-drag spacers will reenter, due to atmospheric drag at perigee within a few months, while the much more dense POPACS spheres will remain in orbit for approximately 10, 12.5 and 15 years.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Research (Atmospheric density)
Operator:
Contractors:
Equipment:
Configuration: CubeSat (3U) form factor
Propulsion: None
Power: None
Lifetime: 10, 12.5 and 15 years
Mass: 1, 1.5, and 2 kg
Orbit: 325 km × 1500 km, 80
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
POPACS 1 2013-055D 29.09.2013 Va SLC-4E Falcon-9 v1.1 with CASSIOPE 1, CUSat, DANDE, POPACS 2, POPACS 3
POPACS 2 2013-055E 29.09.2013 Va SLC-4E Falcon-9 v1.1 with CASSIOPE 1, CUSat, DANDE, POPACS 1, POPACS 3
POPACS 3 2013-055F 29.09.2013 Va SLC-4E Falcon-9 v1.1 with CASSIOPE 1, CUSat, DANDE, POPACS 1, POPACS 2